Ice fishermen now targeting hungry panfish, tullibee
This last week has knocked our snow cover down significantly.
The ice thickness on the lakes has not been worked on too much by Mother Nature due to the energy going into dealing with our snowpack.
The ice is easier for travel now than it was a week ago, and way better than two weeks ago! Do not take vehicles onto the ice now. Sleds and wheelers will be OK for the next week or so, then it is time for foot traffic and checking conditions as you go.
With the walleye and northern season closed, the access to fish that you can fish for and keep doesn't require much travel on the lakes now. Unless you are chasing after tullibees.
Crappies, sunfish, and perch are the most sought after fish now, and can be reached by short walks onto the lakes. The fish have transitioned to green weed growth on the edges of the first breaks to deeper water.
Small jigs tipped with small action tails in brighter colors, or wax worms will work on these hungry fish. They will feed heavily now as they get ready for the warm up period and their upcoming spawning seasons.
The late ice period can be very good for crappies, sunfish, and the bigger perch. The weather is usually pleasant, and you can fish in the open on a bucket.
Drill many holes and move when fish stop in the hole you are fishing. They will roam around in the weed beds and can be spooked by predator fish chasing them around in the weeds.
The tullibees will continue to be over the deepest holes in the lakes that support their population. Walking to these locations is probably not in the cards. Traveling by sled or wheeler is the way to go for at least the next week or so.
Flashy lures tipped with minnow heads or wax worms work great on the tullibees this time of the season. Some tullibee specialists will take the treble hooks off the spoons and put a several inch dropper line on it, with a hook or treble retied to the line, and tip it with a minnow head or waxies. The action of the lure draws them in, and the bait gets them to bite.
A locator is critical for catching these great fighting fish, as they many times are suspended or come through at different depths and aren't relating to the bottom. Many that catch them, eat them. Some, like myself, just enjoy the fight and catch and release. The key to eating this oily fish is to smoke them.
As you read this article, the Birchdale access at Rainy River is open and the river is cutting several miles a day. You can target walleyes for catch and release only on the river and Four Mile Bay.
On Lake of the Woods, the walleye season is open on the ice until the 14th of April, with the limit now six fish combination of walleye/sauger, only four can be walleyes.
The big northern pike bite is also on at LOW and will last until it is not safe to be on the ice. The Mississippi River is no good this spring and is currently flooding and will continue for a long time.
The Missouri River, Big Stone become options now, as do the Glacial Lakes region of South Dakota. You got lots of options. Time and money are always the big factors!
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)